One of this week's projects for me has been making cornmeal. It's not the bright yellow you may have come to expect because instead of using yellow corn, I use an heirloom variety called Earth Tones Dent that we grow here at the farm. "Dent" means that it's not a sweet corn to be eaten fresh, but rather an Indian corn type which is not harvested until the kernels have dried out, resulting in a dent at the top of each one when the moisture is gone. It's an heirloom, open pollinated variety which means that it is not a GMO like the corn used commercially for meal, it's not a hybrid, and the seeds can be saved from year to year. The ears come in a variety of colors from deep red to a mix of blue and purple.
Once the dried ears have been picked from the stalks, the husks are removed. We store the husked ears in onion sacks hung from the ceiling to make sure there is enough airflow so it will keep well until we use it. To make cornmeal, we start by removing the kernels from the cob. It's a time consuming job if done by hand, but we were fortunate to find a corn sheller at auction last fall. It looks like a big red box with a large metal wheel on the outside. A handle is turned until the wheel is revolving quickly, at which point ears are dropped in one at a time through a slot in the top. Inside, there are large plates with teeth that revolve which separate the cob from the kernels. The kernels drop out into a bucket or pan placed under the machine while the cobs are spit out the side.
After that, I grind using a cast iron grain mill in the kitchen. While this can also be turned by hand, Dan has put a small electric motor on it which powers the grinder using a belt from the motor to the large wheel. It can be adjusted from a coarse to a fine grind. The kernels go into a hopper on top, and come out the bottom. This has not only the cornmeal, but also the hard outer part of each kernel, so the next step is to sift out the usable meal using a simple hand cranked flour sifter. Finally, I weigh and package it. We're happy to have it back in stock just in time for Thanksgiving, and are proud to advertise that our cornmeal is grown here, ground here, and hand sifted!